In 2009 I received an unexpected gift of sixteen pieces of the Thistle and Rose chess pieces. You can read about it here.
Today I pulled out the bag I've stored the wrapped pieces in and took them out. I do not have pawns, unfortunately. I would love to have the matching pawns. It appears that they were sold separately as boxed sets (white and black separately) and are rare. I haven't been able to locate any for sale online. Not that I could afford to buy them anyway, I expect they are selling (if at all) at a premium.
I've been examining the pieces I received. The white pieces are a creamy color, they are not bright white porcelain. Also, the pieces are dusty. The ones that were out of the box I assume were displayed and that is why they are dusty. There is dust on the unboxed black pieces too.
Of the black pieces, the King, Queen and one John Knox serving as the Bishop did not come boxed. There are also two unboxed black towers. There are three boxed black pieces: one John Knox and two William Wallace, who served as the black Knight.
Of the white pieces, the King, Queen and one Thomas a' Becket serving as the Bishop did not come boxed. There are also two unboxed white towers. There are three boxed white pieces: one Thomas a' Becket and two Sir Francis Drake, who served as the white Knight.
As far as I can tell, there are no dates on the boxes but I'm no expert, I may not be looking for the right thing or not looking in the right place. According to information I found at "Beneagles Chess" website the boxes my pieces are in are "late," as the box design was changed somewhat from the box that holds the "early" pieces. None of the boxes I have has a dark border line all around the perimeter near the bottom, which is the indication of an "early" boxed piece.
I would like to learn more about these pieces/sets. How many were actually fired? Hundreds of thousands? I understand that the pieces were given out in First Class on British Caledonia flights. The lady who gave me the pieces travelled frequently in the 70's into the early 80's for her oil company employer. She lived in London for a number of years and travelled back and forth between Canada , the US and the UK frequently.
Peter Thomson (Perth) Ltd. issued the pieces individually, aside from the pawns, and they were filled with Beneagles 70 proof blended Scotch. The pieces were designed by Ann Whittet, an artist from Perth, Scotland, and were modeled by Frederick Mellen of George Wade & Sons Ltd, Stoke-on-Trent, England. I understand the pieces were fired at the Wade Porcelain complex in Northern Ireland.
The black pieces are:
KING: Robert the Bruce (`1274 - 1329) Scotland's patriot king
QUEEN: Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1587)
BISHOP: John Knox (1505 - 1572), Scottish religious reformer
KNIGHT: William Wallace (1274-1305), patriot and national hero of Scotland
CASTLE/ROOK: Scottish Tower House (15th century)
The white pieces are:
KING: Henry VIII (1491 - 1547)
QUEEN: Elizabeth I (1533 - 1603), the "Virgin Queen"
BISHOP: Thomas a' Becket (1118 - 1170) Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162, martyred
KNIGHT: Sir Francis Drake (1540 - 1596), one of England's greatest sailors and probably a lover of Elizabeth I
CASTLE/ROOK: Norman English Tower (12th century)
Many photographs of the various pieces can be found elsewhere on line. I haven't yet photographed my pieces.
The bottom of each piece has embossed letters but it's difficult for me with my bad close-up eyesight (even with glasses) to make out some of the letters, or possibly some of them are numbers. Looking at the black king, "Beneagles Scotch Whisky" can be discerned; beneath this lettering, two undecipherable letters or numbers, a forward slash, the letters "WFM7" and possibly "A."
Ahhh, I think I may be on to something -- looking at the black queen piece now, it looks like "B1" or "81," forward slash, "WFM74" or "WFM7A."
The unboxed John Knox piece -- looks like "B9" or "B5," forward slash, "WFM74" or WFM7A."
The boxed John Knox has gold foil across the bottom and what is probably a cork in the bung hole, so I didn't remove it.
Both of my boxed William Wallace pieces have intact gold foil across the bottom and I assume corks intact.
Both black castle/rooks are unboxed but they have intact gold foil across the bottom and corks intact. I didn't try to peek underneath!
Moving on to the white pieces, the king has foil on the bottom and intact cork; so does the queen. However, the foil labels are different. The queen's label is much simpler than that on the white king, which has "Product En Ecosse" and printed underneath that "Product of Scotland", and other information. I'll have to take some photos of those labels. The queen's label does not have the "Product En Ecosse" or "Product of Scotland" on it, and the eagle icon is larger than that on the king's label.
Thomas a' Becket unboxed piece also has a label on it and intact cork, with a label that looks identical to that of the queen. The boxed Thomas a' Becket has what looks like "B9" or possible "89," forward slash, and "WFM76" - but it's a little hard to tell if it's actually a 6 or not because there is a firing flaw over part of the number - it's a little oval-shaped hole! So, it might be a 5, or a 6.
Both of my white Francis Drakes are boxed. On the first one I'm looking at, the first two letters/numbers are not well-impressed and looks something like "BIO" - maybe B10?, followed by a forward slash, and "WFM76." "WFM76" is quite clearly impressed. The second Francis Drake has an intact foil seal and cork and feels heavy -- is it possible after all these years it still has some whisky inside of it? The label is the same type as that worn by the white king, described above, and includes "Product En Ecosse" and "Product of Scotland" imprinted.
I have two unboxed white castle/rooks. One has a seal and cork intact and feels "heavy" - wondering the same thing as with the Francis Drake, does it still have some whisky in it??? The label is the plainer label like the black queen's label described above. The other white castle/rook has imprinted what looks like "B11" or "811," a forward slash, then the letters "WFM76" or possibly "WFM7G" -- there is a slight "smut" by the number 6 that may make it look like a "G."
Sooo, I need to put a little table together with this information; but it appears at first glance that I have black pieces fired in 1974 and white pieces fired in 1976. That's all I'm willing to hazard a guess at, for the present!
Those are my pieces. I need to shop for a nice vitrine to install them in, out of harm's way. They are too lovely to be buried away wrapped in tissue paper and toweling inside a paper shopping bag!
Cleaning them - well, the pieces without corks and labels can be wet-washed, but the pieces with the intact foil labels and corks, I'll only be able to clean them with soft brushes and cloth, maybe a little water not anywhere near the label! A couple are rather grubby looking. The boxed pieces I'll just keep in the boxes for the time being. I don't know if those pieces reside inside their original boxes -- I'm only leaving things as they came to me, as much as possible. But eventually, if I want to display the pieces, I'll have to remove one "Knight" piece each from the two boxed white and two boxed black that I have.